Family Fun and Learning In Dubbo

Our Road Trip To Dubbo

I hate to admit it, but up until a few years ago I had never had the opportunity to really explore Dubbo or western NSW. Being my home state and roughly 4 hours’ drive from where I live, I felt it was time to rectify this issue.

When Trev mentioned he needed to go to Tasmania for work for a week at the start of December, rather than stay home and mope around, I took this as my chance to get out there and explore a new place with the boys and we convinced my Dad to come along for the ride.

After hearing so much about Dubbo, I decided this was our destination. If there’s one thing Charlie and Jack love it’s animals. We have been to a few of Australia’s bigger zoos but Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo promised to be something unique. It’s an open range zoo, set up much like a safari where you can walk, ride or drive around and look at the beautiful animals in a more natural setting.

Dubbo is becoming one NSW’s best family holiday locations. The drive there is on a sealed well-maintained road, It has so many different attractions, heaps of accommodation and is somewhere we could go and connect as a family away from the hustle and bustle of the coast.

As we were visiting mid- December, we got lucky as the community were putting on a family Christmas party for all the kids in the main park one night. The kids were so excited to meet Santa!

We stayed at Discovery Parks – Dubbo

Discovery Park, Dubbo

Discovery Parks which was situated practically next door to the zoo, was our top pick for accommodation due to having a great swimming pool and water park including a slide. Charlie spent so much time going up and down the slide having an absolute ball.

We hired a two bedroom cabin which was nice and tidy and had everything we needed. It was a great park, although it was quite busy, there was minimal noise and aside from the pool and waterslide it also had a jumping pillow, playground and rec room for the kids. There were great amenities including a baby change room. Everything was well maintained and clean and it was reasonably close to town.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Our friends advised us before we left to make sure we got into the zoo right on opening time and we were glad we did as it was a scorcher that day. We decided to drive around but in hindsight, I would probably pay the extra and hire their carts instead. We got out of the car each time to get a closer look and so that meant constantly walking back to the car (sometimes a fair distance if the animals were in a large area) and then having to click both kids back in their car seats got monotonous pretty quickly.

The monkeys being monkeys. Image: Gecko Photographics; Destination NSW.

Taronga has done an amazing job with their zoo. You can tell the animals are so content and well looked after. For instance, I noticed how shiny the coats on the monkeys were and how clean and tidy everything was. These animals are not lacking anything at all.

The beautiful giraffes

We loved watching the giraffes have their breakfast of carrots. They are such gentle giants and it’s great how close we could get to these beautiful creatures.

Elephant Image: Destination NSW

Unfortunately the heat was against us this particular day and so a lot of the animals were under shade and not showing any interest in my camera. We got to see the elephants albeit from afar but Charlie and Jack still got excited seeing them in real life walking around. 

There’s a playground and park at the main exit area which also included jumping castles and food vans. This was a huge hit with Charlie. We spent ages playing and exploring.



Antelopes Image: Gecko Photographics; Destination NSW

Almost the real thing!

Loving the Giraffes

Fun in the zoo playground


Tickets are available at the gate or you can purchase online through their website .

Adults: $43.20

Children (4-15 yrs): $25.20

Children (4 and under): Free

Concession: $34.20


1 Adult + 2 Children: $83.20

2 Adults + 1 Child: $99.20

2 Adults + 2 Children: $121.60

Old Dubbo Gaol

Old Dubbo Gaol Image: Destination NSW.

Fun was the main factor of this trip away, but I also wanted Charlie to learn something new too. So in addition to learning about animals at the zoo, the next day we explored Old Dubbo Gaol. It’s in the main street which spun me out a bit!

Male Division

Operating for 119 years (from 1847 – 1966) the gaol buildings are wonderfully preserved. The moment you enter through the gates you get a feeling of what things would have been like.

At the time in Australia’s history when this goal was operational, the conditions inside the gaol walls would have been very basic and depressing and the treatment and punishments hard and violent. Originally the prisoners housed here were ones who committed more minor offences such as theft or assault but later the gaol was upgraded to imprison hardened criminals such as those who committed murder or were condemned to die by hanging. The upgrades saw the inclusion of seperate male and female divisions, a padded cell for psychiatric inmates and even had the gallows brought in for those awaiting their fate of death.

Watchman's Telltale

The displays and audio visuals were wonderfully done. My boys loved walking through the main building looking at all the prisoners. They particularly loved seeing a little fake mouse on one of the beds and pointing it out to me knowing my fear of the little buggers. They still stir me up about it.

Female Division

It was good for Charlie to see something different and ‘real’ and to have a small history lesson. I enjoyed answering his questions and explaining things to him and creating that lovely connection.

Watch tower

Central gaol building


Tickets are available at the Gaol or online through their website.

Adult: $17.50

Child (4 -15 years): $5.50

Concession/ Student (16 years and over): $14.00


2 x Adults + 2 Children: $41.00

Extra child: $5.00

Dubbo City Centre

I was so impressed with Dubbo. The streets are well laid out, for a major western NSW regional town it has everything you could possibly need. There was no shortage of shops and cafes and the main street was a perfect mix of the old and new giving it a comfortable, friendly charm.

Dubbo community Christmas party in the park.

That night we hit the main park for the Christmas party and it didn’t disappoint. Santa was there giving away lollies to all the excited kids, there were jumping castles, so many rides for the kids, carnival food vans, the local rotary were doing their chocolate wheel with giveaways, great music and everyone there was in wonderful spirits. We all had a fantastic time. By the end both Charlie and Jack were sweaty, grubby, full of sugar but completely exhausted. A sign of a great night!

Dubbo Visitors Information Centre

When visiting Dubbo make sure you check out their information centre. It was one of the best I have seen. They have rhino statues out the front and inside there is a fantastic array of brochures for all over the region. The staff were very welcoming and happy and only too pleased to help you out.

I look forward to heading out to Dubbo again in a few months when we start our ‘Big Lap’ around Australia. I couldn’t fault the time we had there. If you are looking for an affordable break away that ticks all the boxes for the kids and parents, then Dubbo should definitely be on your itinerary.

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